One of the ATR planes November 1, 2015, passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) wait to board an ATR plane for Islamabad, in Chitral. All 48 people on board a Pakistani plane which crashed in the country’s mountainous north and burst into flames have died, officials told AFP on December 7, 2016. Farooq Naeem /AFP/Getty Images
Sunday was a bad day for a certain goat in Pakistan.
Employees of Pakistan’s national airline took a black goat to the tarmac, near an ATR-42 aircraft that was ready to depart on a domestic flight from the Islamabad airport, and sacrificed the animal.
"PIA lampooned for bizarre goat slaughter," read the headline in Pakistan’s Express Tribune.
PIA is Pakistan International Airlines, which had grounded its fleet of ATR turboprop passenger planes after a December 7 crash of an ATR killed all 47 people on board. The flight on Sunday was the first by an ATR since then.
It wasn’t PIA’s idea to bring a goat into the mix. Airline spokesperson Danyal Gillani issued what was no doubt the first airline statement about goat sacrifice in the history of aviation: "It was done by some local employees as a gesture of gratitude over the clearance of the first ATR [for flying]." Animal sacrifice is a part of Islamic tradition and can be found in other religions as well (see: Leviticus 23:19).
In defense of the sacrifice, a Twitter user who goes by MisBis wrote: "There’s nothing wrong in giving Sadqua [a charitable offering] … Sadqa bari balao se bachata hai [it hedges against many troubles] … stop making it a joke."
But the Pakistan International Airlines Pilots Association was not happy. "When you slaughter an animal in the middle of a major airport next to an aircraft, it is bound to attract attention," said a representative.
That it did, thanks to Twitter. And of course many people couldn’t resist cracking wise.
A blogger for the Dawn newspaper, a national English-language daily in Pakistan, noted:
(Editor’s note: Yes, I always thought "mutton" referred to sheep meat but in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and some other countries, "mutton" refers to goat meat and "lamb" refers to a sheep dinner.)
And some folks were just sad for the goat. A commenter on the Times of India website wrote: "Poor Goat! But, breaking coconut [another type of sacrificial offering] is cheaper and less messy."
Meanwhile, the BBC asks: "Did Sunday night’s sacrifice help?" Their answer: "All we can say is the flight departed safely for Multan, and later returned to Islamabad."